If you google anything about ‘relationships’ you’ll get all the hits about the romantic ones.
I even went incognito mode to test this out, and it still showed all romantic relationship suggestions.
Yes, if we’re in a romantic relationship, we tend to put much of our emphasis on that. But beyond that, we’re in so many more relationships that are essential to our wellness.
We are made to be in relationship with each other.
It’s why isolation is such an effective form of punishment and torture.
But when all that’s ever talked about is how to get and nurture romantic relationships, it’s no wonder we can struggle with non-romantic ones. Especially when we get older and our time is heavily dominated by other things.
“I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.”
Did you know that one of the top 5 regrets of the dying wishing they’d stayed in touch with their friends better? That’s according to Bonnie Ware in her book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. Ware was a palliative nurse who cared for patients in their last 12+ weeks of life. After several years of this, she discovered a pattern of what people regretted. Letting friendships pass by was one of them.
We get it, you’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy. We don’t know how to not be busy. That’s why it’s important to identify your home team, and nurture the heck out of it.
Your Home Team
Are we playing baseball now? Ew, no. Kidding...sort of.
I have shamelessly stolen this from author Shauna Niequest, who writes about the concept of a home team in her book,Bittersweet. She writes:
“Everybody has a home team: It’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyway. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they’re at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people.”
Former pastor and author, Bob Merritt, expands on this in his book,When Life’s Not Working:
“Essentially, life comes down to the people in it...every relationship takes energy to sustain and feed it. That’s why you can’t have more than a few friendships that go long and deep. Each of us has a finite amount of time, which means you have to put a limit on the number of people with whom you wish to go long and deep.”
Identifying Your Home Team
In Sprouted Planner, there is a beginning section talking about this concept, along with a blank (lined) sheet to write down your home team.
While there is no steadfast rule of the number of people that should be on your list, I’d suggest keeping it between 20-30.
This really shouldn’t take you long. You should be able to list your people off the top of your head. They’re probably in your Favorites list of your contacts. Or are constantly rotating to the top of your text messages. They could be your:
- Spouse (if applicable)
- Extended family
- Closest friends
- Close co-workers
If you have big news, who are you telling? When personal tragedy strikes, who are you contacting for comfort? You refuse to pay for movers...who are you bribing with food and beer? Your 50 boxes of planners are delivered while you’re out of town...who are you calling to haul them into your garage in the middle of a Saturday during the summer? (is that just my problem?)
These are your “ride or die” people.
For some of these people, they may be seasonal. Think about coworkers that you become very close with, only to slowly fade when you move to a different role.
Or friendships by proximity, or life circumstances. Neighbors, or fellow moms of littles. Bible study friends. College friends. Some of these friendships develop bonds fast and strong until you’re out of those circumstances, and then they naturally fade, and that’s OK too.
It’s also vitally important to recognize who fills you up, and who drains you. If someone is on your home team but absolutely drains you, you need to exercise boundaries. Or more likely, reassess if they should be on your home team at all.
Nurturing your home team
Admittedly, I used to think this was my strong suite until I got real with myself and realized that’s not exactly the case.
How about you? Are you naturally good at maintaining your relationship with your people?
Some seasons of life make this hard. But when hard seasons hit, you realize how very important your people are. Plus, it’s just plain enjoyable to spend time with the people you love and care about the most.
You need water in the well before you drink from it. Relationships are the same way.
That’s why I included “People” as one of the very few (and very short) pre-filled checklists in the monthly spread of Sprouted Planner.
It’s a reminder to check in with your home team, and if you can, schedule time with them. Not out of obligation, but out of love.
There are a couple of people in my home team that are just good at relationships. They are good at building and maintaining them. I asked them their secrets, and I filled my page with notes.
One thing both of them said was “I don’t know what I’d do without texting.” It’s a powerhouse tool to stay in touch with each other.
My friend Danielle said she uses social media posts as a catalyst to text people and make it even more personal.
For example, if someone posts a picture of their vacation, she might reach out by text to ask, “how was your vacation?” It adds a more personal element than simply commenting on a post (which is good too).
Group texts are great too (most of the time). This is a great way to keep everyone in that group up-to-date with things happening in our lives - the good and the bad. You’ll be more likely to keep in touch too, because once one person texts, everyone else usually chimes in.
You can also use texting in fun traditions, like texting your hard-core sports friends while you’re watching the game.I have zero of this texting happening on my phone, thank you very much.
My aunt Deanna is a straight-up PRO at doing relationships. She has always been really good at remembering and acknowledging the big things in her people’s lives...namely birthdays and anniversaries (both the good and hard ones). She keeps these dates in her phone calendar, and also writes them on her paper calendar as well.
Relationships truly come naturally to her, which is helpful. After picking her mind about the tactical things she does to nurture her relationships, I walked away from our conversation feeling equipped to be a better friend.
One big thing my aunt does is know her relationship priorities. She really does adhere to the ‘home team’ concept and puts her focus most on those people. Even within that, her highest priority goes to God, and then her marriage (to my amazing uncle...shout out).
It’s about knowing which friends and relationships you want to invest in. Everyone else doesn’t get shut out by any means, but they are peripheral people...still seen and acknowledged but not the main focus.
Another thread I took away from our conversation is having assigned organizers in certain circumstances. One of her friend groups - dubbed the birthday club - celebrates every single one of their birthdays with a gathering. The rules are that everybody has to be there, and the last birthday is responsible for planning the next birthday.
Another small group of her friends has one person they’ve all agreed to be the coordinator of their gatherings. Outside of these examples, my aunt is often the organizer because that’s one of her strengths: planning and organizing (a woman after my own heart).
But it’s worth noting, even the planners and organizers appreciate it when someone else takes the reins every once in a while.
It’s also vital to be flexible and willing to adjust to your home team’s season of life. If there is someone with little kids, there may be a season where you are at their house more often because it’s easier for them.
When my dad was sick, everything took place at their house because it had to. My dear step-mom planned more gatherings during the last year of his life then she ever cares to do again. She was the glue that held it - and us - together.
There are also seasons you have to get creative with your relationships. I think every single person understands this immensely after COVID lockdowns. This may look like:
- Early morning or late night walks together, after your caregiving obligations (I say that lovingly) are “done” for the day.
- Having gatherings with your friends and spouses (if they’ve hit it off too) so it’s 2-birds-1-stone time together.
- Going to the friend’s house with the fenced-in yard so the children and dogs can run wild while you sit around a bonfire talking
Lastly, my Auntie Dee is strong in her faith and believes God provides nudges to reach out to her people. This especially happens when she realizes she hasn’t heard from someone in a while. She’ll text or send a card, and lo and behold, that someone was going through something they were trying to face on their own.
In Sight, In Mind
Visual reminders are always helpful to stay intentional about anything. I’ve put together one to help you stay intentional with your home team. And perhaps I needed these tips and reminders most of all. You can grab thathere. No need to enter your name or email either...just a straight-up printable.